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As some of you have figured out by now, Ross and I will leap at any excuse, no matter how flimsy, to dress up in costume. Ross is teaching about WWII and the rise of superheroes in class? Time to dress up like Captain America! I’m going to a vaguely 1920s-themed gathering? Bust out the flapper dress!

In the last month, we’ve had two such occasions, the first being a gathering of friends for high tea at the Sugar Magnolia Cafe tea room for my birthday in January.


If you own a top hat, why *wouldn’t* you wear it?

2019-01-20 14.22.38

The cameo pin I’m wearing belonged to my grandmother.

2019-01-20 13.52.55One of our friends had the foresight to bring along fake mustaches as well.

I received one of the funniest and direly needed birthday gifts: writer’s block soap, which “smells like regurgitated ideas and probably a vampire.” Goodness knows I could do with soap to wash away writer’s block, although I’ll take a pass on the vampire.

Our second costumed adventure was a 1930s-themed date night. We checked out Rockin’ Rolls Sushi first (not 1930s, but delicious, and any place that’s all-you-can-eat is a cost-effective option when dining with Ross), then drove up to Durham to see a special screening of 1933’s King Kong.


Doing my best Fay Wray impression.

Fun fact, Ross wore this outfit to a Casablanca party he and I attended together before we were officially dating, and he looked just as smashing then.

The movie, which I had never seen before, was surprisingly good, and of course groundbreaking for its special effects at the time. No real research would be done on the great apes until the 1960s, so Kong wasn’t accurately based on any particular species; the filmmakers gave him human-looking eyes because no one had any idea what a gorilla’s eyes looked like. The movie was also surprisingly gory and a little risque since it was pre-movie code, they made extravagant use of the chocolate syrup for blood. (Poetic lines aside, the airplane machine guns had a lot to do with Kong’s demise.)

I was also surprised to discover that Peter Jackson’s King Kong in 2005 (which I *had* seen!) was almost a shot-for-shot remake in a lot of ways. Clearly Jackson was a big fan of the original movie.

If any of you have been up to any costumed hijinks lately, let me know in the comments! I love comparing costume notes and sharing ideas.




Nothing like forgetting to set your alarm to start the day off with a jolt of adrenaline.  I woke up this morning, lazily glanced at the clock to see how much time I had left, and shot out of bed after seeing it was 8:33.  I left the apartment at 8:43 and got to work only 10 minutes late, but somehow that’s just enough to set the whole morning on edge.

Nasty Monday mornings aside, things have been going more smoothly of late.  The weekend was immensely productive and a lot of fun to boot.  I trekked off to the Langdon farm to shuck corn, shell peas, watch The Twilight Zone, and shoot their new rifle, a 1936 Mosin Nagant.  Pretty excellent day, and the company couldn’t be beat.

I had a BLAST on Tuesday for the Star Trek: TNG screening.  I went with a couple of friends, one of whom was also dressed in costume as Troi (season three to my season one), and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in spite of some glitches with the streaming.  The feature didn’t start until almost half an hour late; at one point when the show looked like it was finally going to start and then crushed our hopes by diving into the looped commercials again, some guy in the back yelled, “KHAAAAAN!”  Everyone was really nice about the delay, and we had a good time eavesdropping on all of the geeky conversations around us.  The episodes themselves looked great, once we finally got to see them.  The crew had obviously put a tremendous amount of effort into restoring them, and the result was beautiful.  I understand why they chose Where No Man Has Gone Before and Datalore to show: both demonstrated the visual effects nicely.  Not the best episodes of season one, though.  Going in costume turned out to be so much fun, though I did have to lower the seat in my car to accommodate my ‘doFaith (my fellow Troi) and I got lots of compliments, and I don’t think I’ve ever had so many thumbs-up from middle-aged guys before.  As we were leaving after the showing, some guy ran after us asking to get a picture taken with us, which led to an entire scifi club asking for photos.  That’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to feeling like a celebrity. : )

Take a look:


Star Trek:

I read Troubleshooter and The Riders of High Rock, both Hopalong Cassidy novels by Louis L’Amour.  This is the last of L’Amour for a while, I promise you.  In general I prefer L’Amour’s original characters; Hopalong Cassidy was created by another writer, Clarence Mulford, in 1904.  He wrote a slew of short stories and 28 novels about Hopalong, and Hollywood made 66 movies featuring the character.  L’Amour wrote four Hopalong books under the pen name Tex Burns, but denied that he had done so until his death.  Evidently he wrote them for the money (the publisher wanted to cash in on the fame of the character), and he bitterly regretted it and didn’t view the books as being truly his.  His son made the decision to publish the books under his father’s name after reading one and deciding it wasn’t half bad.  Wonder how L.L. would’ve felt about that.  These two books were enjoyable more because of my life at the moment than because of any literary genius they possess.  When you’re dealing with a lot of complicated, angst-ridden issues in reality, reading about straight-forward problems you can solve with a six-shooter suddenly becomes terribly appealing.  And L’Amour does have some good one-liners.

I’ve never read any Marcel Proust, which is sort of the English major equivalent of a hipster not having heard The Smiths, so I decided to give Swann’s Way (part one of Remembrance of Things Past) a shot.  I don’t often give up on books I’ve started.  There are probably half a dozen books I’ve abandoned unfinished in the past ten years.  Swann’s Way is now firmly on that list.  It wasn’t horribly written or full of heinous immorality; it was just astoundingly dull.  I only made it through maybe 60 pages, and nothing whatsoever had occurred by that point.  The protagonist (can I call a character that if they never act?) regales the reader with an interminable and disjointed string of maudlin memories and angst-ridden reflections.  The narrator is manipulative, wildly emotional, passive, and introspective to the point of paralysis; I freely admit that my own dislike for these qualities in an individual probably color my interpretation and opinion of the work. There may well be something of literary merit buried somewhere in this book, but I haven’t the inclination to shovel aside all of the mush to find it.

On a much more enjoyable note, I’m re-reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which we are going to discuss in our philosophy group.  It’s not exactly philosophy per se (I guess I was thinking more of Many Waters in terms of L’Engle’s Hebrew scholarship), but it is awfully enjoyable.  I’ll probably reread the rest of the series one of these days soon.  So many of L’Engle’s ideas stick in the brain like burrs: they’re such tremendous visuals.

Last week was a combination of excellent excursions in the evenings and nasty experiences during the workdays, but overall I think I came out ahead.  Among other festivities, on Thursday Sam and I went to see Singin’ in the Rain on the big screen, and we had a fantastic time.  I had never seen the movie all the way through, so I was glad to have that experience.  We got a lot of compliments on our costumes, and we ran into some other folks who were also dressed up and corralled them into a group picture.  Afterwards we promenaded through Target for no good reason and enjoyed some double-takes.

Friday was Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-A, which means that the restaurant will give you a free meal if you dress up as a cow.  We had a blast participating last year, and this year Sam and I decided our black and white 1920s dresses would work admirably for flapper cow costumes.  We stuck on some spots and some ears and enjoyed our free chicken.  Free food and an excuse to wear a costume?  I’m there.

Speaking of which, the Star Trek: Next Generation screening is next Monday.  I’m of two minds about dressing up.  One the one hand, I don’t have a costume per se, which is obviously problematic, and I’m not sure that even I am ready for the level of geekdom required to go to a Star Trek screening in a Star Trek costume.  On the other hand, it would probably be a lot of fun.  We’ll see. I can always at least do one of Troi’s wacky hairstyles and enrage the movie-goers who have to sit behind me and my pile of hair.




I had only vaguely heard of the Great Eastern before reading The Great Iron Ship by James Dugan.  It was probably a quick blip in a history book that I read.  I’m very glad I had a chance to get to know more about her!  This book was highly entertaining, and I got the feeling that the author had done so much research on the topic that he had to restrain himself from adding too much detail and run the risk of boring his audience.  The book was full of unrelated bits of information: one section mentioned a gentleman named Henry Cole in passing, and a footnote informed us that, “This man invented the Christmas card.”

The Great Eastern, for those who don’t know, was a massive ship launched in 1858.  She was almost 700 feet long and could hold 4,000 passengers, though she never actually did.  She was also a disaster from the get-go.  She was so huge, she couldn’t even be launched properly.  It took months and several tries just to get her in the water.  She was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (What a name, yeah?), who was famous for his big plans and boundless energy.  That’s all very inspiring in theory, but in practice the ship was just too honkin’ huge for her time.  She would pull into port and accidentally crush the wharf, other ships, and anything else that got in her way.  Logistically, fitting her out properly was a nightmare, and the ship turned out to be a black hole sucking up money and human lives.  Finally they gave up on the whole posh passenger liner idea and converted her to help lay transatlantic telegraph cable, so at least she made herself useful.  In her final days, depressingly, she was a giant floating billboard for a department store in England.  Still, in her day thousands of people came to see her (she was a big site-seeing attraction), and Jules Verne sailed on her while he was writing 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

I stayed up into the wee hours to finish Death Is a Lonely Business by Ray Bradbury, which is first in the first in a set of three semi-autobiographical mysteries.  I didn’t realize this at first and was pleasantly surprised to meet several characters from A Graveyard for Lunatics, the second book in the set.  Both novels are more fragmented and surreal than the usual Bradbury—but then, I suppose memory often is fragmented and surreal, and Bradbury was drawing heavily on memories of his own life for these.  I haven’t found a copy of the third novel in the set, Let’s All Kill Constance, but I’m hoping to read that one soon.  Bradbury’s life was a beautiful one.  I don’t know if the circumstances were that unusual and magical, or if he just made them so, but I suspect the latter.  He has the knack for making the commonplace new, fresh, and enchanting…and somehow he also excels at making the new and enchanting feel familiar and nostalgic.

We’re reading Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis this week for our philosophy group.  I’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress, of course, but wasn’t terribly impressed; I know it’s a classic, but something about that book just rubs me the wrong way.  I was baffled by the passage in Little Women where the girls talk about loving to read it because it was such an adventure story.  I wondered if maybe I was reading the wrong book, since Pilgrim’s Progress invariably puts me into a coma, and this coming from the girl who usually enjoys some pretty dry reading.  I’m not a tremendous fan of allegory, which is part of the problem, but I also found it unhelpful in terms of Christian instruction.  Pilgrim’s Regress, on the other hand, is both fascinating and useful so far—unsurprisingly, since it’s Lewis.  The story is allegorical and told in much the same way as Pilgrim’s Progress, but it is a generalized account of Lewis’s own progress in Christianity.  His preface to my edition apologizes for the individualized journey, which he thought was more typical of other Christians’ struggles.  He says that he realized much later that his was an unusual process, but to me it still seems extremely relatable.  More on this later, I suspect.

All sorts of good times with friends lately!  We had a birthday party for Sam which included a viewing of The Artist, which was brilliantly done and thoroughly entertaining.  We also got together for 1920s hairstyling, in preparation for the showing of Singin’ in the Rain on the big screen in Cary this Thursday.  Sam and I will be in costume, naturally, though we’ll probably be the only ones. : )  Yesterday we were at the Langdon farm for a massive get-together to see friends we hadn’t seen in ages, and everyone had a glorious time.  I saw fireworks with friends on both July 3rd and 4th, heard the NC Symphony play on the 4th, and have generally been having more fun than is probably permitted for any one person.

Loki from Thor is playing Prince Hal/Henry V in a miniseries based on Shakespeare’s four plays, Richard III, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V.  Blows the mind a bit, doesn’t it?  What also blows the mind is how people continually label scenes from Henry V as being from Henry IV.

People are pretty cool:


Things to try:


All the King’s Men turned out to be very well-done.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; it did win a Pulitzer, after all.  I think I was sort of in the wrong mood for reading it because I felt very detached from the story, even though it was being told in a way I recognized as being one I would normally be very involved in.  The main impression I carried away from the book was, “Ah, very skillful,” even though I knew I was meant to be moved by the drama, not focusing on the writer’s skill: I just didn’t feel moved, and it wasn’t through any fault of the author.  Warren’s poetry is some of the most emotionally moving that I’ve read.  I think I just need to go back and reread this in a few years, because I really did like it very much, and I think I would love it if I read it at the right time.

I finished Monument Rock, a collection of short stories by Louis L’Amour.  Yep, I’m still working my way through all of his books that I snagged at the library sale, and I had seen the author’s name on this one and threw it in my box without looking at it too closely.  Turns out this edition is large-print, and reading it made me feel very grandmotherly.  It was kind of a nice break, though; my copy of All the King’s Men had the teensy tiniest of print.  Most of the recently published L’Amour short story collections are pulled from his early days of publication in the pulp magazines, and the stories themselves aren’t (for the most part) literary gold mines, but they’re still very enjoyable.

My philosophy discussion group is tackling the Bhagavad Gita this week, about which I knew very little until a few days ago.  I did know the famous quote that Oppenheimer was reminded of when seeing the first nuclear explosion test: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”  Turns out another translation (and the one favored by the Gutenberg Project translation I was reading) is “I am Time, the destroyer of all things.”  Certainly puts a different spin on it.  The religious texts of other cultures intrigue me (I’ve always meant to read the Q’uran), and the Gita was no exception.  I foresee some lively discussion tomorrow.

This will mainly be about books.  But first…

Things to see:

Things to hear:

All Things Wise and Wonderful is James Herriot’s third book recounting his adventures as a veterinarian in Yorkshire, England.  His books are always amusing, but some of the stories in this one had me tearing up, I was laughing so hard.  This is not the book to be reading surreptitiously under your desk at work, let me tell you.  I snicker every time I think of the story of Mrs. Beck and her holy terror of a cat, and I’ve told it to every friend who will sit still long enough to hear it.

I picked up a lot of cheap Louis L’Amour books at the Wake County Library sale, and I’m slowly working through them.  Down the Long Hills isn’t quite the usual western fare; instead of a hard-bitten, tough-as-nails protagonist combating ruffians,  living off the land, and winning over fair maidens with his beard stubble, the hero of the story is a seven-year-old.  A seven-year-old who could probably eat you for breakfast.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story, even if the concluding action (in true L’Amour fashion) whips by in the last couple pages so fast you’d miss it if you blinked.

I’m working on With These Hands, a collection of stories also by L’Amour.  The book opens with a rough-and-tumble boxing story.  (I’ll make a confession right now: what little I know of boxing and street fighting, I learned as a very young girl from L’Amour.  “Haymaker” and “Liverpool kiss”are probably not in the vocabulary of most eight-year-olds.)  I like L’Amours books because in spite of themselves they feel plausible, probably because L’Amour drew from personal experience and his biography reads like one of his own novels.  To summarize: He grew up in North Dakota and left home at 15, getting jobs as a seaman, lumberjack, elephant handler, and miner, among other things.  He served in WWII, circled the world on a freighter, sailed a dhow on the Red Sea, was shipwrecked in the West Indies, and was stranded in the Mojave Desert.  He won 51 out of 59 professional boxing matches, and he was a journalist and lecturer.  Somewhere in there he found the time to amass a 10,000-book library, do extensive historical research, and write more than 100 books.  He was every bit as colorful as one of his characters, and I can’t offhand think of anyone who lived a fuller life.  In some ways I envy the people who lived just as history was turning the corner into modernity.  They grew up with horses and buggies and died with space rockets; what must that have been like?  But I think it must also have been sad, to see things that you loved changing and going away forever.  Life was altering so quickly during that time, sometimes it must have felt as if there was nothing recognizable from your childhood at all.   Adventure seemed so much easier to find back then; but perhaps I just haven’t been looking hard enough. : )

Even though our Latin/literary discussion group had given up on Ovid’s Metamorphoses,  I decided to get back to it.  I hate leaving a book unfinished, and I kind of missed my weekly dose of mythology.  The concluding lines gave me a bit of a shiver because suddenly it seemed like Ovid turned his head and looked right at me:

Now I have done my work.  It will endure,
I trust, beyond Jove’s anger, fire and sword,
Beyond Time’s hunger.  The day will come, I know,
So let it come, that day which has no power
Save over my body, to end my span of life
Whatever it may be.  Still, part of me,
The better part, immortal, will be borne
Above the stars; my name will be remembered
Wherever Roman power rules conquered lands,
I shall be read, and through all centuries,
If prophecies of bards are ever truthful,
I shall be living, always.

I was going to post something all meaningful up here, but by the time I got through putting in the links below and raving about books below that, I ran out of steam. Er, next time?

Internet treasure trove.

Last night two friends of mine and I all dressed up as cows and got free meals at Chick-fil-A! Highlights of the excursion involved hats with cow ears, getting my braid pulled by somebody in a legitimate cow costume, and consuming ridiculous amounts of chicken. Afterwards, we all studied Latin, still in bovine dress, just for the heck of it.

There have been incredible amounts of good times in general lately, including pell-mell adventures on the 4th in which several friends and I chased down an ice cream truck in a neighborhood none of us lived in, got caught in the rain waiting for the city’s no-show fireworks, and ended up watching our neighbor’s (no doubt highly illegal) fireworks display from our balcony instead. Earlier in the weekend, more friends congregated for the consumption of spaghetti made according to Audrey Hepburn’s recipe, phenomenal homemade cake from Sarah of Culinary Quixotic fame, homemade blueberry soda from the same source, and fresh bread from the farmer’s market. It was quite the day!

Behold, the internet spoils from the past two weeks.

If anyone finds out what happened to May, let me know. I seem to have lost it. People say time seems to pass more quickly the older you are; at the rate I’m going, by the time I’m 60 years old I’ll blink and miss a whole decade.

My brother is the coolest young entrepreneurial upstart poised to take over the world out there, and don’t you forget it. Also, please hire him.

I’m half-heartedly toying with the idea of switching to WordPress or Blogspot or something. One by one, my friends are deserting LJ for more “grown-up” blogging sites, and not without good reason. My Russian spammer friends are really getting on my nerves: I get more spam comments than legitimate comments. Granted, I don’t get that many legitimate comments so that’s not really saying much, but it’s the principle of the thing. I’ll still always keep this journal, though, if only to keep up with the fan communities. Seriously, they work via psychic link; if some obscure bit of fandom isn’t on the comms, it’s not on the internet.

Click here for outdated links! I need to post more frequently.

Last Sunday I had a glorious day with friends, hiking in the most perfect weather. We explored off-trail and found all sorts of fascinating things! And we managed not to get lost in the woods for days, so that was pretty excellent. Best Superbowl Sunday ever, certainly!

I have a recurring dream recently where I consistently order the wrong chicken sandwich. They’re always radically different dreams in which purchasing a meal is a very minor point, but I always accidentally order the sandwich I don’t want. NOT the #2, darn it!

Lately I’ve been having weird troubles with Russian spam commenters, leaving cryptic messages on my posts. I don’t understand. Maybe I talk about Tolstoy too much. I can’t imagine why else someone would think anyone in my (very small) readership would be inclined to buy cheap electronics from Russian websites. Beware the Muscovite black market ipods, kids.

Check out Espresso Queen, a coffee blog by one of my supremely awesome friends!

RIP Brian Jacques. I hope that somewhere an army of mice and badgers are giving you a battle-cry send-off.
Part 2 of The Sagan Series. Stop, drop, and watch this immediately. Part 1 is here, should you have somehow missed it.
Neil Gaiman on copyright piracy.
Reel wisdom.

Coke dragon battle, which you probably saw if you were, unlike me, watching the Superbowl last weekend.
Grannies are fearsome creatures.
I love the cold, but not even I understand Norwegians.

Now if you could only get these with different titles…
Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Kit. Tempting…
Whole Trees Architecture, found by Rachael.
Six Artists You Didn’t Know Made Your Favorite Movie Moments.
Criminal photographs from Australia, 1920. Mugshots have never been so intriguing. I want to write a story about each one.

Bass strings.
“Evergreen” by Yoann Lemoine.

I read Destination: Void by Frank Herbert of Dune fame this week. Obviously he doesn’t get amazing points for the title, but the rest of it was quite good. Not mind-blowing, I’m afraid; all of the other Herbert that I’ve read hasn’t quite lived up to the Dune series. I think his talents really lie in worldbuilding because fiddling around with the one we live in just doesn’t quite cut it in terms of illustrating his genius. Void was heavy on the science part of science fiction, so much so that I was a bit lost with some of the computer language they were tossing around. The book still had the multi-layered feeling of Dune where you suspect you’re only understanding what’s going on in the topmost layers, there’s so much subtlety winging around in the dialogue. I loved that about Dune, but in this book it was actually a little annoying sometimes. Overall, however, still a very good book.

Next up, I’m re-reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I figure the movie will be out at the cheap seats in a month or two, and I’ll probably check it out then. Normally imprecise book-to-movie adaptations send me into a blind rage, but for some reason Narnia is the exception to that rule. Even though the movies are exceedingly dissimilar from the books, I still enjoy both of them independently (even realizing that the movies, while entertaining, aren’t exactly groundbreaking cinema). The Hobbit adaptation, on the other hand…you just better behave yourself, Peter Jackson.

From Thomas Babington Macaulay via Doctor Who:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?”

I thoroughly enjoy science fiction that is more well-read than I am.

So far the best thing about my new job is that I get to wear a rather futuristic-looking headset while answering the phone. The other day I wore braids wrapped around my head with the headset just in front of them, and I felt just like Leia in The Empire Strikes Back. Only more with the “Sir, you’re going to have to retake the Non-Invasive Echo certification test” and less with ordering the Rebels into battle against AT-ATs, sadly. It’s fortunate that I have a good imagination.

It’s been a nutty couple of weeks, and my abject apologies for not updating in all that time. My brother graduated, I was stranded at work three times when my car died on various occasions, I bought my first wall art (out of the back of someone’s car in a parking lot, no less), I threw a massive party and saw tons of friends, I spent hours on the phone with the Florida and North Carolina DMVs (and in the office of the latter), and several friends graduated. I’m trying to catch my breath a bit now before diving into several more parties and a ton of editing for my old employer.

Ok, so these links were new and relevant when I started accumulating them for this post two weeks ago…but now they’re pretty outdated, sorry.

Guy creates his own musical instrument.
Star Trek’s “The Inner Light” on a theremin.
Aperture Science in typography.
Music matrix, stolen from Ian.
“Candlelight” by The Maccabeats. Hee, Maccabeats, get it?
Lykke Li in The Black Cab Sessions.

I’m indescribably pleased that this describes pretty much all of my friends.
Plastic bag. “I wish that you had created me so that I could die.”
Found a vintage photos community.
The Metrodome collapses. I honestly thought this was fake until the news confirmed it. Can you imagine being inside as that was happening?
Trailer for a series based on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency!
Average people doing nothing. Leave them alone.
How to insult Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter fans.
The Tronicles of Narnia.

Star Wars through the eyes of Dr. Seuss. Yoda is my favorite.
Star Wars paper snowflakes.
Star Wars alphabet.
5 Sci-Fi Children’s Books.
Star Trek doors.
Wil Wheaton and Christmas ornaments.
Doctor Who meets Star Wars.
Scrapbook of a Stormtrooper.

Get out of my line of fire! Fantastic story about CS Lewis and his wife.
11 celebrities who were secretly total badasses. Oh, what would we do without you?
Gollum lives!
Aurora borealis, thanks to NASA’s picture of the day.
Lunar eclipse coming up!

Off to eat leftover party food…

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

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